How Alfre Woodard Broke the Marvel Cinematic Universe

With a storied acting career and nearly 120 film and television credits to her name, it's not surprising to spot Alfre Woodard in many a popular Hollywood film. However, two Marvel characters portrayed by the Academy Award nominee raised a great deal of theorizing amongst the Marvel Cinematic Universe fans.

Woodard first appeared in 2016's Captain America: Civil War at the request of friend Robert Downey Jr. She portrayed grieving mother Miriam Sharpe, a U.S. State Department employee who confronted Tony Stark about her son's death during a battle she blamed the Avengers for. Their encounter pushes Stark to later side against Captain America and with the United Nations to establish government oversight for the Avengers.

Woodard told The Oklahoman that she enjoys the occasional break from serious dramas, saying, "I have so much fun doing the other thing because it reminds me. … When we were little, they'd say, 'Go on, get out of here, go play,' and you'd just be running through the yard, 'Na na na na. OK, and now, and now we see the monster. Oh! And now we're gonna run over here!'" she said.

The news confirming Woodard's role in Captain America: Civil War actually followed the announcement of her casting as Mariah Dillard in Marvel's Luke Cage. She played the villainous politician whose plans for Harlem were repeatedly derailed by Cage in both of the show's seasons.

Woodard expressed the fun of taking on corrupt, evil characters. "That's one of the great plusses about being an actor," she told The Oklahoman. "If you're female, from the time you're 3 years old, people are going, 'Be nice, be nice. You shouldn't think that way. Don't act that way.' They tell Jennifer, 'Come on, Jennifer … don't act that way. Be nice.' Jeremy is swinging on the chandelier, they don't say nothing to the boys. But the girls have to be nice. So, it's a way to get to be whatever you want to be. That's fun," she said.

Before Kevin Feige began overseeing Marvel's TV development, the Marvel/Netflix shows referenced the films, but the movies never reciprocated. Woodard's duel Marvel roles were the source of some speculation, even though Luke Cage was originally a Netflix property before Disney regained the license for it and other Marvel Netflix characters. Some fans thought Woodard might have played the same person in both films, with Miriam Phillips being a cover for Mariah Dillard.

Captain America: Civil War writers Christoper Markus and Stephen McFeely have since confirmed that Woodard's two roles are entirely different characters, and she is credited as "Miriam" in the film's credits, based on the character Miriam Sharpe from the comics, who confronted Tony Stark at her son's funeral.